Rural Hospitals

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A new study has found visits to rural emergency departments increased by more than 50 percent from 2005 to 2016 with the most dramatic usage changes among non-Hispanic white patients, Medicaid beneficiaries and those without insurance. This increase is putting more pressure on already strained safety-net hospitals.

Researchers found the increase may be, at least in part, due to an increase in patients using the emergency department for illnesses that require less care or those that are chronic in nature.

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New research by the Chartis Center for Rural Health has found that current and pending federal health policies are putting a bigger financial strain on already struggling rural hospitals. 

The report found the percentage of rural and critical access hospitals working at a negative operating margin has increased from 40 to 44 percent. 

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A vote on the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act has been put on hold after several Republican Senators, including West Virginia's Shelley Moore Capito, have publicly said they cannot support it. Nationally, opposition for the bill continues to mount as more and more groups release reports about the negative impacts the current bill could have on access to treatment in rural areas, like much of West Virginia.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The number of coal mining jobs in Boone County has halved during the past two years. Drive through the county now, and signs of depression are becoming evident in shuttered storefronts and homes in increasing need of repair.


After Obamacare: Rural Health Providers Nervous About Affordable Care Act Repeal

Feb 26, 2017
Photo Courtesy of Mountain Comprehensive Care

Mike Caudill runs Mountain Comprehensive Care Corporation in five eastern Kentucky counties. Many of his 30,000 patients gained insurance through Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. No one knows if or when those folks might lose coverage. But, Caudill said, the impact could be considerable.

Kara Lofton / WV Public Broadcasting

At the emergency room at Preston Memorial Hospital, nurses are wheeling 47-year-old John Shaffer to an imaging room. He’s been having chest pains and trouble breathing.

“I went to my family doctor first and they did an EKG and then I came here,” he said. The distance between his doctor’s office and the hospital is about ten miles. The next closest hospital is close to an hour away – a distance not unheard of in rural Appalachia.

Recent research shows almost a third of Appalachia’s rural hospitals are vulnerable to closure, though.